2014 BMW 435i Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Michael Bettencourt
Las Vegas, Nevada – Slowly, BMW has begun to edge away from the uncompromised sportiness of its “Ultimate Driving Machines” tagline, and moved distinctly closer to the centre of the performance/comfort spectrum. And no better product to typify this still-entertaining but more refined, often gentler and more enviro-conscious personality than the new 2014 4 Series Cabriolet, which we sampled – slowly – in the heavily policed Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
Since media folks from practically every country in the world managed to drive the 435i Cab before us on one of the final event waves, state troopers had already become very familiar with international testers speeding along the lonely roads that snaked through the state park’s molten red rock, prompting multiple warnings to watch one’s speed, as well as a BMW-led “chaperone” car through some of the park’s areas. So there was little chance to thrash it to truly experience whether its handling chops have been affected by the new generation change. Regardless, it’s certainly clear that the unnaturally leisurely pace of this drive suited this car’s personality better than canyon-road ripping.
Like the 4 Series coupe that it’s closely based upon, the upcoming 4 Cab will feature the same angry LED lighting and flattened oval headlights up front, as well as a centimetre lower ride height than the 3 Series sedan to give it an extra little visual punch. The roof remains a three-piece folding hardtop, each of the three pieces performing a little pirouette as they separate, stack themselves into a neat pile, then fold themselves back into the trunk, all in a well-choreographed 20 second span. And if you’ve just decided at the stale red light that it’s al fresco time, the process will continue even after you set off, until the car hits 18 km/h.
But although you can do it, given the spindly arms on many of these systems and the conditions of winter-ravaged roads in many parts of the country, you’re much better off to pull over to do it. Or wait for the next light.
This is perhaps one of the most impressive folding hardtops in this segment at leaving some actual carrying capacity in the trunk, even with all those panels folded away. There’s even a new cargo-loading system that helps the panels tilt up to let you load more gear back there, an area that changes from a sizable 370 L with the hardtop blocking the sun, to a much tighter but still useful 222 L with the top folded away. Compared with its four-seat droptop German rivals, the Audi A5/S5 Cab and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class droptop, the Bimmer has more space than the Audi top up, but only slightly less top down, while the larger and cushier E Cab beats them both handily no matter what position the top is.
The car’s mechanicals remain largely the same as higher-end versions of the 3 Series sedan, with the 4 Cab offering a 241-hp turbocharged four-cylinder in the 428i, and a healthy 255 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,250 rpm, while the 335i we sampled came with BMW’s lovely but familiar turbocharged inline six, with equal horsepower and torque figures at an even 300 each. These versions are set to go on sale in March, starting at $56,600 and $67,400, respectively. The all-wheel-drive 428i xDrive droptop will arrive in May soon after with an MSRP of $59,900, while its 435i xDrive counterpart will go on sale in September 2014.